Sunday, March 21, 2010 was a big day for runners around the world, and the big news was not that the Pamakid Runners had 29 runners racing in the Across the Bay 12K.
In Portugal Eritrea’s Zersenay Tadese set a new World Record for the half marathon, running 58 minutes, 23 seconds at the Lisbon Half Marathon. This bettered the old record of 58:33 set by Samuel Wanjiru in 2007. It also sets the wheels in motion for a great match-up between Tadese and Wanjiru over the marathon distance sometime in the near future. Tadese also set the world 20K record en route to the half marathon, passing 20K in 55:21, 27 seconds faster than Haile Gebrselassie’s previous record. At the 15K mark of the race Tadese’s split was 41:33, just four seconds short of yet another world record.
Tadese is a name to remember. The twenty-eight year old has an accomplished past and it appears the best may still lie ahead of him.Tadese was the 10,000 meter silver medalist at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin last summer. On the night
that he won Eritrea’s first ever medal in World Championship history, Malinda and I found ourselves on the same subway as an Eritrean family. They had their Eritrean flag and were clearly excited by Tadese’s accomplishment. Their little boy asked who was on the button I had on my backpack (it was a photo button of Shannon Rowbury). I gave both the children a lapel pin and in exchange, when the family got off the subway, the mom handed us a flyer for their Eritrean restaurant in Berlin. A few nights later we had Eritrean food for dinner.
In New York Haile Gebrselassie, the man known as “The King,” raced the New York City Half Marathon. It was an all-around bad day for him. First he lost his 20K world record to Tadese, and then in his race he abruptly dropped out at the eight mile mark. He was battling Kenya’s Peter Kamais for the lead when he suddenly stopped and appeared to grab at his chest. He began running again and it appeared that he might get back in the race, but he soon stopped for good and entered a medical tent. Returning to his hotel he told a New York Road Runners staff member that he was suffering from asthma, which flared up by the dust kicked up in the city streets, possibly by a lead vehicle.
Even the greats can have a subpar day, but in Gebrselassie’s case this is his second straight race affected by a health issue. Back in January at the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon Gebrselassie did not come close to his own marathon world record, instead he had to battle two fellow Ethiopians just to get the win, which he did in 2:06:09, three minutes slower than his world record time. After the race he reported that he had slept wrong and was suffering from back pains.
In the women’s New York City Half Marathon Deena Kastor went out aggressively, building a 30-second lead over Great Britain’s Mara Yamauchi. Her 10K split of 32:30 was well under course record pace. Less than two miles from the finish Yamauchi passed Kastor to take the win in a course record time of 1:09:25. Kastor finished second in 1:09:43, just two seconds ahead of Madai Perez in third. This result sets up an intriguing re-match on April 25 as both Kastor and Yamauchi are entered in the London Marathon.
In Rome, at the Rome Marathon, the men’s marathon featured an interesting finish. Ethiopian Siraj Gena kicked off his shoes with about 500 meters left in the race and sprinted barefoot across the finish line to win the race in 2:08:39. Some reports indicate that he kicked by Kenyan runners Benson Barus and Nixon Machichim, but the results seem to indicate that he finished twenty seconds ahead of them, so it is unclear if he really kicked past them while barefoot. Gena was paying homage to Ethiopian Abebe Bikila who fifty years ago won the 1960 Olympic marathon in Rome while running the entire course without shoes. There are rumors that the barefoot finish to honor Bikila was set-up by race officials, who offered a 5,000 euro bonus to the winner if they pulled of their shoes and won the race without shoes on. In any case, it added one more interesting story to what was an interesting day on the international running scene.